Growing up bilingually, it wouldn’t hit me that something I liked in one language was unique to that language and/or the culture until I would have to translate the given word or phrase. In Spanish, the word for hummingbird translates literally to “rose sucker” which in English makes the bird sound like a fancy mosquito. In Spanish, the connotations are much more fanciful, and I’d imagine the birds leading dainty lives where they’d flit from flower to flower, delicately kissing roses if they came across them.
It’s a sometimes strange experience, realizing that you are a hyphenated American. One wants to take pride in aspects of one’s culture, but where is the line drawn? The bigoted internet outrage that happened over Sebastien de la Cruz’s performance (really, more his outfit) at the NBA finals highlights a reality that we’re aware of on an intimate level if we happen to belong to a particular group. America’s land purchases engulfed a huge amount of territory that was previously Mexico, and it is a saying that for the common folk, nothing changed. They woke up one day and were told the war they had not wanted was ended, and they were no longer in Mexico but in the USA. If a people and their culture have been around since before it was even a part of the country, is it really possible to expect that it would vanish just because the powers that be were no longer the same? How exactly should Americans be defining what it means to “be American” anyways?
What defines a culture and its common experiences is something that can draw people together as quickly as it pushes them apart. The Question Bridge Project is an amazing example of how the internet could be harnessed to answer these questions of culture and identity. Although it focuses on Black males, the series of questions and particularly the answers show how each individual has a unique perspective on how they connect to their label. It reveals that despite society’s attempts to paint a person with a brush, their innermost humanity can shine through if there is an outlet for it.
Also, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these translations. Rumi seemed fitting given that no matter what we look like, we all have an emotional life we try to navigate.
|The Guest House / La Casa de Huéspedes|
|This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.A joy, a depression, a meaness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)
|Esto ser humano es una casa de huéspedes.
Cada mañana uno nuevo llega.Un alegría, un depresión, un maldad,
algún conciencia momentánea viene
Como un visitante inesperado.
Salude y entretiene a todos!
Aunque sean un grupo de tristezas,
que tropiezan violentamente tu casa
dejándolo vacía de muebles.
sigue tratando cada uno con honor.
El puede estar limpiándote
por algún nuevo deleite.
El pensamiento oscuro, la pena, la malicia,
encuentralos en la puerta riendo,
y invite que entran.
Agradezca cualquier que llega,
porque cada uno es enviado
como guía de más allá.
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi (a través de mi traducción)